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Iranian president says human rights depend on "world balance"

ROME, March 9 (AFP) - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told Italian political leaders Tuesday that human rights can only be guaranteed in "a world in balance" and called for the strengthening of international institutions.

Khatami, the first Iranian leader to visit western Europe since the 1979 Islamic revolution, was speaking at the Italian parliament, against a backdrop of protests by thousands of Iranians living in exile in Europe.

He said: "One can and must reinforce regional and international equilibrium and put an end to the increasing weakness of international organisations such as the United Nations."

Calling for a "stable peace," he said "a united world, founded on peace and balance, cannot be one whose heart is made up of the unlimited dominance of the great powers, nor one where divisions and oppression persist."

Khatami also proposed "reciprocal collaboration between the Islamic world and Iran, admitting that the Middle East must face up to its "serious problems" that "threaten world peace" and undermine efforts for regional coexistence.

He said solutions should be sought within "the framework of regional and world cooperation, with the involvement of countries which are opposed to corrupt practices and war and which respect human rights."

Khatami arrived early Tuesday in Rome where he was met by Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini before meeting President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

Before leaving Tehran, Khatami, who is accompanied by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and Mines and Metals Minister Eshagh Jahanghri, said he hoped his trip would lead to better relations with Italy and Europe.

The trip is to focus on economic relations at a time when Iran is suffering from a slump in the price of its main export commodity, oil.

Tehran newspapers Tuesday hailed the trip as a turning point in relations between Iran and Europe, which has resisted joining the United States in its campaign to isolate the Islamic regime for its alleged support of terrorism.

Khatami is due to meet Prime Minister Massimo d'Alema on Wednesday and Pope John Paul II on Thursday.

He is scheduled to visit France next month.


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